International relations expert
Yesterday, the International Court of Justice issued a preliminary ruling on South Africa’s lawsuit against Israel, accusing it of “genocide” in the Gaza Strip. Although the court has yet to hand down a final ruling on possible genocide in in the Palestinian territory, the key point of this verdict lies in endorsing South Africa’s claim and affirming the ICJ’s jurisdiction to investigate it against the Israeli
The court further mandated specific measures against Israel to prevent genocidal acts. The judges’ overwhelming vote count and its significance in this early stage of the ruling have been unprecedented for Israel in legal terms. Among other aspects, the vote of 15-to-2 commanded Israel to employ all means at its disposal to prevent any acts related to the genocide in Gaza. Furthermore, a resounding 16 votes in favor versus one vote against has underscored that Israel must punish and stop those who incite genocide in Gaza. Plus, it emphasizes that Israel must promptly and effectively take measures to ensure the provision of humanitarian
aid to Gaza.
Every year, numerous judgments are rendered against Israel in United Nations human rights committees, which typically carry a symbolic nature. However, what is issued by the ICJ holds a legal foundation, and if Israel’s crimes in Gaza persist, based on these special directives, hearings could be held against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his hawkish cabinet.
Naturally, it was anticipated that the ICJ would issue a temporary cease-fire to halt the war in Gaza, but such extraordinary verdicts can also precipitate the cessation of hostilities and the legal prosecution of war criminals. South Africa and other nations can present the Gaza war as an exemplification of genocide by providing evidence.
Meanwhile, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who has faced Israel’s backlash in recent months due to his extensive criticism of the atrocities in Gaza, can now vociferously denounce Israel and demand an end to the war, bolstered by these ICJ rulings.
Another crucial legal point is that the ICJ’s preliminary judgments can serve as a consultative document for the UN Security Council. In accordance with Article 98 of the UN Charter, the UN chief can, leveraging the aforementioned rulings and based on the ICJ report affirming the catastrophic situation in Gaza, request an urgent UN Security Council session and propose a resolution to
stop the war.
Moreover, the confirmation of the ICJ’s jurisdiction to investigate the genocide charge, along with the its verdicts to prevent Israel’s ongoing killing of people in Gaza, has upset the balance of power and credibility, both in the eyes of the public and governments, to Israel’s detriment. Even the United States, as a staunch supporter of Israel, which viewed the Gaza war as a political and military conflict, is now losing its standing as the issues of genocide and human rights violations in Gaza come to the forefront. Hence, the division between Europe and the US will widen concerning their support for Israel.
Ultimately, what was announced yesterday in the ICJ marks the inception of a path that could eventually lead to the trial of Netanyahu and other belligerent members of his cabinet and the Israeli army.